The Mating Mind: how sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature by Geoffrey Miller - ISBN 0385495161 - Random House 2000

note that this was finished much earlier but without recall, recall starts a month before the current date to already start with very spaced recalls


Studying the evolution of cognition and especially interested in runaway processes for Seedea:Research/Drive.


  • 1 Central Park
    • A Mind for Courtship
      • "This book proposes that our minds evolved not just as survival machines, but as courtship machines. [...] the most distinctive aspects of our minds evolved largely through the sexual choices our ancestors made." (p3)
      • "shifting [...] from a survival-centered view of evolution to a courtship-centered view" (p4)
      • "By intelligently choosing their sexual partners for their mental abilities, our ancestors became the intelligent force behind the human mind's evolution." (p4)
    • Evolutionary Psychology Turns Dionysian
      • opposing Steven Pinker's view that cultural products are side-effects of our mind rather than being integraly part of the selective process
      • "sexual selection theory offered valuable intelligence about aspects of human nature that are important to us" (p7)
    • Trying a Different Tool
      • "Evolutionary biology works by one cardinal rule: to understand an adaptation, one has to understand its evolved function." (p7)
      • "Adaptations can arise through natural selection for survival advantage, or sexual selection for reproductive advantage."" (p7)
    • What Makes Sexual Selection So Special?
      • "sexual selection through mate choice can be much more intelligent than natural selection." (p9)
      • " A major theme of this book is that before language evolved, our ancestors could not easily perceive one another's thoughts, but once language had arrived, thought itself became subject to sexual selection." (p10)
      • "use sexual selection theory just where it is most needed: to explain mental abilities that look too excessive and expensive to have evolved for survival." (p11)
      • "runaway sexual selection, is the best-established example of a positivefeedback process in evolution." (p11)
    • Sexual Selection and Other Forms of Social Selection
      • "Scientists became excited about social competition because they realized that it could have become an endless arms race, requiring ever more sophisticated minds to understand and influence the minds of others." (p12)
    • What Makes Sexually Selected Traits So Special?
      • "sexually selected adaptations [...] evolved specifically to advertise individual differences in health, intelligence, and fitness during courtship." (p14)
    • Why Now?
      • new experiments and less puritanism
    • The Gang of Three
      • "really large brains and complex minds arose very late in evolution and in very few species" (p17)
      • "very long lag between the brain's expansion and its apparent survival payoffs during human evolution" (p17)
      • "nobody has been able to suggest any plausible survival payoffs for most of the things that human minds are uniquely good at" (p18)
      • "achievements are not side-effects of having big brains that can learn everything, but of having minds full of courtship adaptations that can be retrained and redirected to invent new ideas even when we are not in love." (p21-22)
    • Fossils, Stories, and Theories
      • referencing The Prehistory of the Mind by Steven Mithen (see Research/Bibliography)
      • "details of an adaptation as it currently exists are often more informative than the fossilized remnants of its earlier forms." (p25)
    • Show Me the Genes
      • "Although behavior does not fossilize, some of the DNA underlying behavior does, and it can sometimes last long enough for us to analyze." (p27)
    • What We Can Expect From a Theory of Human Mental Evolution
      • "meet three criteria: evolutionary, psychological, and personal" (p27)
    • Working Together
      • transversal study
    • An Ancestral Romance
      • " Human evolution is the story of how that gateway evolved new security systems, and how our minds evolved to charm our way past the ever more vigilant gatekeepers." (p32)
  • 2 Darwin's Prodigy
    • Darwin's "900-page, two-volume The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex of 1871. The title is misleading. Less than a third of the book -only 250 pages- concerns our descent from ape-like ancestors. The rest concentrates on sexual selection, including 500 pages on sexual selection in other animals, and 70 pages on sexual selection in human evolution" (p36)
    • "While natural selection adapts species to their environments, sexual selection shapes each sex in relation to the other sex." (p37)
    • " The whole point of having a nervous system is to make important adaptive decisions. What decision could be more important than with whom to combine one's inheritance to produce one's offspring?" (p44)
    • "Both sexes end up on an evolutionary treadmill. The female preferences and male ornaments become caught up in a self-reinforcing cycle, a positive-feedback loop." (p56)
    • analysis of the trouble of the theory through history of science and societies
      • "Sexual selection was ignored because biology was not ready -ideologically, conceptually or methodologically- to deal with it." (p62)
  • 3 The Runaway Brain
    • "environment is to natural selection, sexual preferences are to sexual selection. They are not only the tastes to which sexual ornaments must appeal, but the environment to which they must adapt" (p69)
    • "feedback loops are the source of sexual selection's speed, creativity, and unpredictability." (p69)
    • Fisher's runaway process (first appeared in print in 1930)
      • "Fisher's key insight was that the offspring of choosy females will inherit not just longer tails, but also the genes for the sexual preference- the taste for long tails. Thus, the genes for the sexual preference tend to end up in the same offspring as the genes for the sexually selected trait." (p71)
      • "Fisher's runaway process is driven by this genetic correlation between sexual traits and sexual preferences in offspring, which arises through the sexual choices their parents made." (p72)
    • "the sexual preference [...] can genetically piggyback on the very trait that it prefers. This gives the runaway process its positive-feedback power, its evolutionary momentum." (p72)
    • mentionned by Matt Ridley in the final chapter of The Red Queen
    • consequence of monogamy/polygyny
    • "runaway sexual selection has more of a minimum speed than a maximum speed. It just can't go slow. This is one reason why the simple runaway story makes a poor explanation for human brain evolution." (p79)
    • "Its [the runaway process] more fundamental problem is its neutrality, which makes it weak at explaining multi-step trends that last millions of years." (p81)
    • "The more psychologically refined a courtship display is, the more overlap there may be between the psychology required to produce the display and the psychology required to appreciate it." (p92)
    • "when it comes to choosing sexual partners for longterm relationships, men and women increase their choosiness to almost identical levels. They also converge in the features they prefer." (p95)
    • "If most human reproduction happened in longterm relationships that were formed through mutual choice, then most human sexual selection was driven by mutual choice, not just by female choice." (p96)
    • "mutual mate choice, is not consistent with a pure runaway process." (p98)
  • 4 A Mind Fit for Mating
    • "Sexual reproduction probably arose as a way to contain the damage caused by mutations." (p101)
    • "Investment analysts will recognize that sexual reproduction is a way of implementing a risk-seeking strategy." (p102)
    • " By producing behaviors such as language and art that only a costly, complex brain could produce, we may be advertising our fitness to potential mates." (p104)
    • "evolved our sort of brain: huge, costly, vulnerable, revealing." (p105)
      • I think that's here "revealing" is the synthesis idea of the book, brain is an integrator of fitness yet, at the same time has to advertize itself as able to do so.
      • Consequently creating an arm-race for production and appreciation of "brain products".
      • Making the nature of the brain, if not tangible, at least "perceivable".
    • "The healthy brain theory proposes that our minds are clusters of fitness indicators" (p105)
    • "Fitness in this evolutionary sense has three important features:
      • it is relative to competitors in a species,
      • it is relative to an environment, and
      • it is a statistical propensity rather than an achieved outcome" (p107)
    • based on Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899 one can state that " Where nobody knows anyone else's true wealth directly, conspicuous consumption is the only reliable signal of wealth. Sociologists and economists understood this logic immediately. Capitalist consumerism evolved in part as a set of wealth indicators." (p123)
    • "Sexual selection favors both the preference for costly sexual displays and the displays themselves." (p124)
    • importance of the waste display being scalable, in order to provide information in all situation
    • genic capture : "The indicator captures a larger amount of information about an individual's genetic quality." (p130)
      • "As the window grows wider through genic capture, the indicator lets an observer see a larger amount of all the genetic variation in fitness with the population, making it easier to choose mates for their good genes." (p131)
    • "norms [humility, frugality, egalitarianism, ...] emerged as moral instincts and cultural inventions to combat the excesses of sexual self-advertisement and sexual competition." (p136)
      • "much of human behavior evolved to advertise fitness, while simultaneously realizing that the essence of wisdom and morality is not to take our fitness indicators too seriously." (p136)
    • finishing the chapter with a criticism of Richard Alexander's group warfare theory, yet both theories do not seem mutually exclusive, one could an "engine" and the other a "bound"
  • 5 Ornamental Genius
    • "What look like sensory biases to outsiders may have a hidden adaptive logic for the animal with the senses." (p147)
    • "the main benefit of a unified pleasure system is that it simplifies learning by allowing the hot chooser [influenced by subjective feelings of pleasure] to use similar kinds of reinforcement learning in many different contexts." (p150)
    • as opposed to the mind-as-a-computer metaphor "the metaphor of the mind as a sexually selected entertainment system identifies some selection pressures that may have shaped the mind during evolution." (p153)
    • "runaway theory, indicator theory, and sensory bias theory [should] be considered as overlapping sexual selection processes, not competing models." (p153)
    • "It [sexual selection] can protect the early stages of innovations by giving them a reproductive advantage that can compensate for their survival costs." (p168)
    • "our minds evolved through a million years of market research called sexual selection. From this perspective, we are walking, talking advertisements for our genes" (p175)
    • "Without sexual selection, evolution seems limited to the very small, the transient, the parasitic, the bacterial, and the brainless. For this reason, I think that sexual selection may be evolution's most creative force. It combines an inventor's playful love of discovery with the venture capitalist's willingness to invest enough in innovations to bring them to the market where they may prove useful." (p176)
  • 6 Courtship in the Pleistocene
    • "The Pleistocene was a geological epoch uniquely important in human evolution, because it included the evolution of all, that is. distinctively human." (p179)
    • From Fitness Matching to Fitness Indicators (p199-201)
      • clear example of escalation and the drive to "allocate more energy to their sexual ornaments and courtship displays"
    • "From a fitness indicator viewpoint, the material benefits simply bias evolution to favor fitness indicators that happen to deliver practical benefits in addition to information about mutation load." (p210)
  • 7 Bodies of Evidence
    • "developmental stability [...] refers to an individual's ability to grow a trait in a normal form despite the mutations they may be carrying, and despite the environmental challenges" (p229)
    • "For traits that normally grow symmetrically, like faces and breasts, the exact degree of symmetry can be a powerful indicator of developmental stability, which in turn is a major component of fitness" (p229)
    • "A good sense of humor means a discriminating sense of humor, not a hyena-like shriek at every repetitive pratfall." (p241)
    • "Where mutations show their effects most readily is where we direct our sexual judgment and social attention. A portrait of a human implies a representation of the face." (p250)
    • "sports are culturally invented indicators of physical fitness." (p253)
  • 8 Arts of Seduction
    • "The rest of this book is devoted to four human capacities: art [this chapter], morality [ chapter 9 ], language, and creativity." (p258)
    • "a sexually selected instinct for making ornamentation need not have any motivational or emotional connection with a sexually selected desire to copulate" (p273)
    • "The displayer does not need to keep track of the fact that beautiful displays often lead to successful reproduction. Evolution keeps track for us" (p273)
    • see also the Californian neuroscience researcher of indian origin from UCSD (Ramachandran?) who studied this theme of the evolution of aesthetic tastes, cf his talk in PersonalInformationStream.WithoutNotes
      • example of the idealized bird beak, making a yellow stick more appealing that an actual beak
  • 9 Virtues of Good Breeding
    • focusing on kin selection theory, developed by W. D. Hamilton in 1964
    • "Equilibrium selection is the gradual process by which an equilibrium becomes established for a particular game." (p316)
      • based on Nash equilibrium in game theory
    • "The peacock's tail is no less beautiful when we understand its sexual function. Nor should the validity of human moral vision be reduced when we understand its origin in sexual choice." (p320-321)
  • 10 Cyrano and Scheherazade
    • (notes to add)
  • 11 The Wit to Woo
    • (notes to add)
    • direct reference to Simonton then Campbell and evolutionary epistemology
  • Epilogue
    • (notes to add)

See also

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Overall remarks and questions

  • how is that different from the synthesis?
  • see also my notes OriginsOfGenius in which Dean Keith Simonton discusses the importance of differentiation, even amongst member of their restricted group, including the same family.
  • check Geoffrey Miller's research page to see 9 years later how
    • "the genetic evidence that will emerge in the coming years will probably render [this] ideas -even the apparently most speculative ones- fully testable" (p27)
  • multi-step progressive/multi-burst (chapter 3) vs. Gould's punctuated equilibrium?


(:new_vocabulary_start:) peahens appalingly elk antlers bittern gulpy belches to preen quandary coattails elation sieve totter nepotism (:new_vocabulary_end:)


Other read books linking to the TheMatingMind page :

Foundations in Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience

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